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Stellenbosch garden

Text Gill Cullinan Production René Slee Photographs Wil Punt Drive through Stellenbosch, past the Lanzerac Hotel and up the Jonkershoek Road, and you’ll reach a hidden valley encircled by mountains. The road eventually peters out at a dead end, meeting the slopes of the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which are covered in a blaze of watsonia flowers. It is here that Coreen and Niel Krige have created a country garden that ticks every box of a rural idyll. The Kriges’ property, Lingen, consists of four hectares: two under vines and orchard trees, one under stones and the remaining one a garden. The couple bought Lingen in 2003 after Niel’s mother, who lives nearby, tipped them off that the property was on the market. Niel, who grew up in Stellenbosch, has a soft spot for the area, and the couple flew down from Johannesburg for a viewing. ‘We looked at the setting, had tea, and that was that,’ says Coreen. The location is spectacular: wherever you stand you are conscious of the impressive scale of the mountain backdrop. The garden has changed considerably since Coreen started working on it. ‘The azaleas and camellias were here,’ she says of the shady front garden, ‘but we levelled the lawn and put in a fountain.’ She also cut down the ivy that was smothering the old oaks and wild olives, and planted beds of clivias, interspersed with tree ferns, hollyhocks, iris japonica and cleome. The rose gardens are arranged by colour, with beds of yellow roses in the front of the house, a red area further back, alongside the driveway, and a pastel section behind the house. Climbing roses tumble over archways in the garden and there are vases of freshly picked roses throughout the house. ‘I’m mad about roses,’ says Coreen. ‘It’s lovely to have flowers for nine months of the year.’ Some of her favourite species include Hot Point Spire, Golden Monica and Crème Caramel, ‘which has long stems – exceptional for a climber,’ she says. As a surprise birthday gift Niel recently had a rose named after her, and there is now a bed planted with Coreen Krige blooms. Once you’ve walked through the rose garden you reach the indigenous garden, where Coreen has created a network of paths as well as a waterway. ‘This isn’t an entirely indigenous garden,’ she says, pointing out some maidenhair ferns. ‘These Aristea capitata close at night,’ she says, ‘ and have a very short, two-week flowering season.’ There are also proteas, arums and pincushions, indigenous bulbs, painted ladies, pineapple flowers and babianas. ‘There’s always something flowering in this garden.’ It’s here that the melody of honeybees at work in Lingen’s eight hives greets you. ‘There was one hive when we got there and we’ve added the rest,’ says Coreen. ‘There are always bees in the rose garden too, but not to the same extent as in the indigenous garden.’ A visiting expert said he could taste the flowers in addition to the gum trees dotted throughout the valley in the flavour of the honey. Extracted from the hives once a year, this special honey is given to family and friends. There are also orchards of peach, fig, avocado and pecan trees, and granadilla creepers, as well as an avenue of very old almond trees, which the squirrels in the oaks have resisted so far. Coreen’s sunny vegetable garden keeps the family dinner table stocked. ‘I love going out to pick salad leaves for supper,’ says Coreen. ‘You don’t get anything fresher.’ It’s planted with a variety of salad leaves as well as strawberries and more unusual things like tree tomatoes, which she uses to make sorbet, and a kumquat tree, which drips its tart fruit. ‘I don’t pick them, because they are so beautiful for three months,’ she says. The garden is continually evolving. ‘The established trees provided the basis for the layout,’ says Coreen. Rather than following a grand plan, she worked on the different areas as space became available. ‘It’s not a perfect garden; it’s a work in progress.’ If there is an intention behind this garden, however, it’s to provide a space to enjoy the birdsong and beauty. When there isn’t a gathering of friends enjoying tea under the oaks, or a visit by her daughter and new grandson, Coreen takes her tea tray down to a shady spot in the garden to soak up the serenity in solitude.

Create a Buzz

Ten tips for making yours a bee-friendly garden:
  • Provide a range of flowers offering nectar and pollen, and group in one place.
  • Choose indigenous plants.
  • Go organic: try to avoid pesticides.
  • Grow a variety of plants of different shapes and colours.
  • Plant to ensure a succession of flowers across the seasons.
  • Sink a saucer of wet earth into a flowerbed and keep it damp as a water supply.
  • Plant a herb garden – bees like rosemary, thyme and perennial basil.
  • Plant flowers in sunny, sheltered spots.
  • Allow the garden to grow wild in some areas.
  • Plant Felicia amelloides (Blue daisy), Selago canescens (Bitter bush), Stachys dregeana (Haarbossie), Ceratotheca triloba (Wild Foxglove) and Helichrysum argyrophyllum (Golden Guinea Everlasting).
This article was originally featured in the January 2010 issue of House and Leisure.